I've mentioned before how I disliked all the management speak and management training we had to undergo when I worked in London.
For some reason, another episode came to mind the other day. I was clearing up some old clothes to give to charity and I found an old T shirt, still very clean and neatly pressed, and only worn once all those years ago.
For a few days we were taken to a team building away-day or two at some countryside place away from London. I forgot where it was. When we got to our hotel rooms we were told to give up our office suits and wear instead the T shirts they had given us. The shirts were in different colours: red, green, blue and yellow. Mine was green. It was obvious that some clever dick had divided us into different groups.
The T shirt bore the slogan "Unlock Your Potential".
What a stupid slogan, I thought. My potential was so unlocked that it fell out of every orifice in my body.
Who thinks up such stupid slogans and thinks that somehow, magically, it would make us better managers or leaders or whatever. I know it made me more of a rebel. I hated to partake in such stupidity and wear a T shirt for the next two days we were there. I was never informal in a business surrounding. Three-piece suit and a suitable sober tie. That's me.
But I changed into jeans and the T shirt to set an example to the rest of my team.
One of the exercises took place in a large field. There was a Jeep there and a lot of traffic cones in the field numbered from 1 to 12.
The idea was to teach us communications and listening skills. We were divided into groups of two. The idea was that the driver, (me in this case), would sit in the driving seat blindfolded. And my colleague sitting beside me would give me directions on where/how to drive without hitting any of the cones in the field. He was being assessed for his communications skills, and me in my listening skills. There was a moderator sitting in the Jeep behind us to ensure we did not cheat.
We had to drive through the course and unless we passed by a certain % mark we had to do it again and again until we got it right. You can imagine, with forty people in groups of two we'd be there all day driving over and again until we got it right.
I was getting angry and not prepared for such prescribed stupidity.
The moderator started her stop-watch and asked us to go. What she did not know was that I could see a little through one eye in the blindfold. Neither did my colleague know of this.
I drove deliberately slowly, pretending to listen intently to my colleague who did not know his left from his right, (reminded me of my wife giving directions), and all the time I carefully avoided hitting any of the cones in the field.
We got top marks first time. The moderator was pleased. My colleague was elated at his communications skills. And I thought they were all a bunch of idiots.
Now some of you may think I am a cheat and a fraud. But I did not gain any financial reward by peeking through the blindfold. All we gained is that my colleague and I went to the pub much earlier than the rest of the people there. All 38 of them driving again and again until they scored the appropriate required %.
I remember on that away-weekend we had an elaborate end of course meal. They asked us to choose someone to give an after-dinner speech. No one volunteered except another senior manager and me. I knew he was a part-time after-dinner speaker. The sort of person one hires at functions to make a speech on a variety of subjects. He was well polished at his skill and I had heard him before. He was keen to give a long speech to show his skill to all and sundry and perhaps to bore us to death about leadership in the Roman Empire, or managerial skills through the ages, or some other insomnia busting topic that would make you wish you were dead.
The devil in me was keen to stop him from making such a speech. After a good meal and wine, the last thing you want is a long diatripe about management and business.
I suggested we draw lots. I took two pieces of chalk from the black board. A long piece and a small piece. I put one in each hand and told him the one with the short piece is the loser.
I put both hands behind my back and broke a small piece from the long chalk. I tucked the rest in the back of my trousers. I presented two hands each containing a small piece of chalk and asked him to choose.
As I recall, I made a humourous speech about management and managerial skills and how not to do things.
Do you think I cheated? What is cheating anyway?
I believe I saved the rest of the people there from a long and boring speech which would have contributed to their indigestion or constipation.
I should have been given a medal!